Sep 17, 2018

Peach Crisp for two | Fruity summery treat

I should've shared this post like weeks ago when we could still believe it is summer but oh well! It's still only 80F outside here in Charlotte, so technically we are still in Summer right? ;-)  Fall is right around the corner and all the apple and pumpkin and Halloween recipes are already doing it's rounds, but here's one last fun summery treat for you to enjoy before all the stores are completely done with selling sweet ripe peaches :-)

Fruit crisps are something I bake almost anytime a dessert craving hits in…which is almost always :-P It’s one of my favorite baked fruit dessert options. The soft and sweet fruit flavored mostly with cinnamon/cardamom/allspice, topped with a chewy and crunchy granola like topping and baked up until bubbly  and aromatic…best served with a nice scoop of vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream! Aahh so nice….
They can be made with all kinds of fruits like apples, pear, peach or any fruit you really like, even berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry) and the list goes on. Sturdy fruits tend to retain the shape better and give a good bite.  Also the best part is fruit crisps take hardly any time at all from start to finish. All you need are a few simple ingredients and it can be put together in minutes.

I wanted to bake a simple dessert for after dinner one evening that I could make quickly and before Manish and the kiddos came back home from having a lot of fun playing outside with the neighborhood kids….Our little girl get super excited when she sees the older kids playing outside. She puts on her shoes herself and gets all geared up and literally runs along with the bigger kids. I must say, we stay in a beautiful neighborhood where Appu has a lot of like-aged friends (both girls and boys) and it’s a joy to see them all play outside, full of laughter and fun. Manish is often on ‘daddy duty’ to make sure Mihi doesn’t fall or get knocked down …lol!

Peaches are a favorite summer fruit here and we buy them a lot. Most of the time we eat them raw in its nice juicy sweet form, but sometimes few of them aren’t as sweet and those get turned into crisps and crumbles...hehe! Sweet Yellow peaches are our favorite, but we try the yellow, white and all kinds.

I had bought around 3 White Peaches from Walmart which though fully ripened never turned out sweet and tasted quite bland. So they became these beautiful Peach crisps. It’s a perfect dessert that we can bake in a fancy baking dish or cute little ramekins for 2 or 3 people and maybe an extra ramekin for the next day 😉

Peach Crisp (for two)

You’ll Need
2-3 Ripe Peach (Yellow / White)
3 teaspoons Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg powder
½ teaspoon Vanilla extract
For the topping:
½ cup Oats (I used quaker instant oats)
2 Tablespoons slivered Almonds/chopped Pecans
2 Tablespoon Butter (cut into cubes)
2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Whipped cream/Vanilla Icecream – to serve (optional)

Ramekins/ any Baking dish - as needed

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F and lightly spray with butter/unflavored oil any baking dish of choice (I used small ramekins so used about 5 ramekins).
2. Cut the peaches into small cubes/slices and mix them in a bowl with the cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and vanilla extract and spoon them into each ramekin/baking dish as desired.
3. In same bowl mix together ingredients for the topping – Oats, nuts, brown sugar, Butter and pinch of salt.
4. Add the topping generously on top of each ramekin/baking dish.
5. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until the peach mix is all bubbly and the oats crumble get a golden color and is toasted.
6. Serve at room temperature with a big scoop of vanilla icecream or like how I did, a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream!

This makes the perfect dessert for two-three people. Mihi baby wasn't very keen on eating the whole thing, but she enjoyed eating the whipped cream with the oats crumble, probably reminded her of oatmeal :-) Appu, Manish and I gobbled up 3 of them instantly and we still had 2 more to spare. I hadn't filled the ramekins too much, so made extras to have some the next day as well. 
Do try them out with any fruit of your liking. And don't forget to let me know how you liked it :-)


Mar 8, 2018

You are my Sunshine themed Birthday | Mihika turns 1 and Manav turns 6!

P.S: This post was long due. Its 2018 now, but I'm sharing one of our biggest birthday parties of July 2017 for our little ones...hope you enjoy the details just as much as we did putting it together!

Our little bundle of joy, our baby girl Mihika turned 1 year old last July 16th, 2017.  Her name, Mihika means ‘the Mist’ or ‘Dew drops’ and we call her Mihi baby or Mihi at home. Her older brother Manav (Appu), simply adores her and she’s the first person he asks for when he doesn’t see her around. 

Mihi baby's first words were 'Appu chetta', so i know they both are meant for each other :-) She gets super excited when Appu chetta is around and at times gets annoyed when he runs around and she cannot catch up.

Both Manav and Mihika share July birthdays and although Manav had his own little Pokémon themed 6th birthday party, we decided to combine both of their birthdays and throw a grand birthday bash last year.  
I remember thinking of a Sunshine themed party when Appu was 1 year old, but later went for a Rainbow themed party instead, which was just as colorful and fun.

‘You are my Sunshine’ is a wonderful theme for little girls and boys and can be customized as per our wish. As I wanted to highlight our baby girl’s 1st birthday, I used some pink color in the décor apart from lots of Yellow and White. Appu did not care for the colors used in the décor, his interest was in the cake cutting, magic show and piñata that was planned as part of the celebrations. He kept telling everyone he has a sunshine birthday coming up and was really looking forward to it.

This party took several months of brainstorming and planning and I want to discuss each detail of the party one by one :-) Long post ahead, so I've tried dividing each category and added lots of pictures to enjoy the details.

Sunshine Decorations 
Big colorful backdrop, sunshine cutouts, giant Sunflowers and lots of balloons and other decorations in the shades of yellow, white, pink and grey formed the main base. 

A lot of the decorations were bought from Walmart, Party City or Dollar store or ordered online from Amazon. Plenty were handmade. It was a whole lot of effort to get the exact items we needed whether store-bought or home-made. 

The entire ceiling was decorated with hanging ball and honeycomb lanterns and it looked beautiful :-)

Pinwheels and fancy Balloon Arch Backdrop

I have always wanted to try a backdrop with Pinwheels and I absolutely love Balloon arches, especially fancy balloon arches, not the usual U shaped ones.  

After going over millions of party backdrop pictures on Pinterest, I decided to do one that included the best of both, so Pinwheels on one side and a giant Balloon arch on the other side with a white backdrop which would allow the colors to pop out. 

After making a rough sketch on my laptop with the colors I had in mind, we decided this is exactly how it should look and it was the template for our backdrop. 
sketch done for an idea of our backdrop on MS paint!
As the color for the décor was mostly Yellow, White and Pink, we bought Pinwheels in those shade and some metallic ones for a burst of color. 

For the balloons, the colors ranged from sunshine yellow to golden, light pink to sparkly pink, clear transparent ones and some blue. The backdrop was a sequined white curtain and the pinwheels were places to the left and balloon arch to the right. 

We bought the frame and put up this entire backdrop ourselves and it took Manish, my dad and several other friends help with blowing balloons, cutting tape, using a fishing line to set up the balloon arch and all kinds of other small details to put this up.  We were mighty proud of the end result…what do you think?

Cake table Decor

Several details went on the cake table. There was the cake ofcourse....but lots of other cute details. We used tulle table skirt to match with Mihi baby's tulle frock.

Daddy was a huge help for all the preparations. Almost all the different sunshine cutouts, number cutouts and several other mini decorations some of which never made it to the party were done by him over several days.

We bought the 'You are my Sunshine' lettered block frame (which was perfect for the table) from Walmart.
The sunflower ball on top the the pink vase was fully handmade by pressing sunflower heads onto a round thermocol ball. It wasn't easy to get so many similar plastic sunflower plants.

Another thing I've always wanted to do : Chalkboard's :-)
We got black foam boards for this and each one had a special chalkboard to themselves. Apart from the writing, we stuck some 3d stickers for some fun effect. I don't remember the last time i drew with chalk and it was so much fun to do this.

A separate table was arranged with both Manav and Mihika's photographs and some fun details like wooden blocks that spell their names, sunshine cutouts and standing number 1 and 6 frames that were actually cardboard frames over which my dad cut and stuck shimmery yellow cardstock sheet. 

For the kids photo-table, I wanted to create a large sunshine backdrop and got cardboard and yellow paper shreds for the same. Again, my awesome daddy cut and stuck the whole thing and brought it to life. It formed a beautiful backdrop for the table along with some giant Sunflowers.

A large frame with Mihi baby's picture was kept at the photo-table for guests to write a wish or note for her on her 1st birthday. We had done the same for Appu's 1st birthday and it's a nice little souvenir for them to look at later. 

Sunshine themed snacks and treats
A separate table for snacks and small eats were set up, mainly for the kids.
I decorated some Lemon Oreo thins to look like sunshines, made Mango mousse cups, Pink and Yellow Cake pops and Yellow cardamom flavored Macarons which I used as part of the Strawberry-macron tower. 
There was also potato chips, mini chocolate treats , fruit salad, veggie salad and CapriSUN juice as part of the snack table.

And yes! I made macarons for the very first time. It was my second try ideally and although it wasn't a perfect batter (had small lumps), they formed feet and looked quite good. Some of them were hollow but tasted good nevertheless. 

They were cardamom flavored macarons tinted yellow (to go with our Sunshine theme) filled with sweet vanilla buttercream. 

I also prepared some  chocolate coated Strawberries and used them to form a Strawberry-Macaron tower with pink and yellow roses. They formed a pretty centerpiece on either side of the cake on the cake table. 

The Cake 

For the Cake, I was toggling between whether to keep 2 cakes as it was for two birthdays or one large tiered cake. After lots of confusion and brain storming, we decided to keep just 1 large cake as Appu had already had his own special birthday cake.

Top Tier: Yellow cake with Mango Mousse filling decorated with whipped cream rosettes

Middle Tier: Strawberry  cake with Mango Mousse filling, decorated with pink whipped cream dots
Bottom Tier: Yellow cake with Mango Mousse filling, decorated to look like sunflowers with an Oreo cookie center.

 A glittery Happy Birthday topper and a cute smiling sunshine cutout added the final touches.
We used 2 golden candles numbered 1 and 6 to represent each birthday kid before they cut their cake.

Cake Cutting

Cake cutting was really fun. All the guests had arrived on time and Mihi baby was in a good mood. We first placed a number 1 candle and Mihi baby cut her 1st Birthday cake…woohoo!! She had just eaten a bowlful of khichdi , so she wasn’t very hungry to take a bite.

Next, the number 6 candle was placed and Appu insisted on cutting the cake himself. He did a great job and took a big bite as always.

My beautiful sunshine princess was all dressed up in a gorgeous sunshine yellow tulle frock. The dress was custom made, very comfortable and she wore it throughout the length of the party.  To try and match my little princess I decided to wear a yellow tulle floor length gown.

Appu wore a suit for the first time and although a bit hesitant at first he agreed to wear his suit and shoes as long as his dada also wore one. So they wore matching gray suits with mild yellow shirts and looked a handsome pair. And the color combo went very well with the song, ‘You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine. You make me happy, when the skies are Gray!’

Grandma and Grandpa also wore shades of Yellow, so in all we were all in sync with the theme. They both made sure the birthday girl was eating and drinking as per her schedule, which really helped as she was very calm and composed during the party although very curious and kept watching everyone as she was seeing a large crowd of people for the first time. We even requested the guests to come dressed up in their most fancy outfits in shades of Yellow, White or Pink.

Magic show & Face painting

Cake cutting was followed by a fun Magic and Clown show for the kids and they also did balloon twisting and face painting. 
Appu as usual got his face painted like spider-man and I have to say he looked like Spider-man in a suit :-D 
My mom and myself got some sunshine tattoos. I did not get one for Mihi as she has very sensitive little darling.

Sunshine Piñata

Our next fun activity was the Sunshine Piñata. This wasn’t a pull-string piñata, so Appu made sure he did not forget to take a baseball bat and a plastic rod from home to hit open the piñata. All the kids took turns and finally ripped open the Pinata filled with lots of goodies. Mihi baby watched the whole thing and was so excited. I bet she wanted to just swoop down and take a strike at the piñata herself.

Food & Drinks

The food for the guests were all catered from a good Indian restaurant. 
Chicken Majestic
Chilli Chicken 
Chilli Paneer

Main dishes:

Chicken Biriyani
Veg Biriyani
Chicken Curry
Paneer Tikka masala
Papad and Raita


Mango mousse (homemade)

In all the birthday party was a lot of fun. The party hall was amazing with a beautiful outdoor view of the lake. There was also a playarea where the kids could run out and play. We had music and laughter and I want to assume everyone had a great time. The entire planning, purchasing and setup of the backdrop and other details did take us a long time and I sincerely thank my parents, Manish and all our friends who came forward to help. 

These two babies of ours are our Sunshines. I always want them to smile and be happy and wish all good things in life for them. 

I could go on and on describing the details from the party but I guess I've covered most of it. So let me end this post by saying once again hope you enjoyed all the details of the party as much as we did :-) 
Reading your comments are the best part about blogging, so feel free to share your comments and thoughts on this party. 


Oct 16, 2017

3 Ingredient Mango IceCream | Manju's Eating Delights Turns 6!

Hello one and all! I have been writing and updating a blog post to share our baby girls big 1st birthday party that was in July, but it's taking longer than expected to get all the details in :-) I'll share that shortly , but meanwhile I realized that my little space here turned 6 years old yesterday on Oct 15th...yaay! That surely called for a quick thank you post and ofcourse a yumm recipe...

Happy Birthday to my little blog and thank you to all who still visit this space, though I have been very poorly with updating it in the past year. I still get lots of messages and updates from friends and family who tried a recipe from here and came out well. I also get thank you notes from families who got inspired from the various birthday themes posted here and how it worked great for them. So Thank you all, my virtual family for always being there to inspire and motivate. 
Wow! thats 6 years of blogging and though I've had several hobbies that I started and left, this is probably my only one that's lasted this long. Pat on the back for me and big group hug to all of you for being there by my side.

These days I love watching all these quick FB cooking videos. An entire dish is shown done in 5 minutes and they make it look so damn easy. I tried doing a very simple Mango Lassi video beginning of this year and I have to say it was no easy job at all. I was nervous, felt weird and hated how I sounded although the recipe was good and I enjoyed drinking it all up after the shoot :-) Probably it's easier if you don't have to show yourself too much in front of the camera, mayb I should try that next.

Anyways, there was some more mango pulp left from after making the lassi and I had this sudden idea to try making an instant Mango icecream. The recipe is so easy, specially since I'm using canned and sweetened mango pulp. And not to mention how I love anything with Mango  ;-)

Mango IceCream

You’ll Need
1 cup Sweetened Mango Pulp
1 cup Heavy whipping cream
1  cup Condensed Milk
1 teaspoon Cardamom powder (optional)
Fresh/canned diced Mango (optional)

1. Add the mango pulp and condensed milk to a bowl and mix it up - easy if you use a whisk.
2. Whip the heavy whipping cream until they form smooth yet stiff peaks.
2. Slowly incorporate the whipped cream to the mango pulp-condensed milk mixture until its smooth and well incorporated.
3. For additional flavor and to overcome the sweetness I added some cardamom(elaichi) powder to the mango ice cream.
You can also add nuts or tutti-fruitti chunks or diced mango/peach or any fruit of liking to the icecream.
4. Transfer to a rectangular freezer safe dish and allow it to freeze for atleast 12hrs.
5. Scoop and enjoy in a bowl or over a cone.

Above recipe makes a small quantity, as I used the remaining Mango pulp which was leftover after making a mango lassi.
If you prefer to make a larger quantity I would suggest using the entire can of Mango pulp + entire can of condensed milk  and atleast 2 cups of whipping cream or double the recipe.
The Mango pulp can I used is 30 oz 
Condensed Milk is 14oz 
Flavor/Garnish as preferred. Pistachios pair really well with Mangos ;-)

It's always Icecream season somewhere and specially if you can make a super quick and easy one like this without the need of any fancy icecream maker machine/gadgets. Make this for any party or at occasions when you've invited guests over and they'll be asking you for the recipe for sure.

Recently at an India Fest here we tasted a Paan (beetle leaf) flavored icecream, mildy green colored and so full of beetle leaf and gulkhand (rose jam) was so good. I am definitely gonna try that sometimes soon. 

Ciao my dears...See you soon!


Sep 12, 2017

Pokémon themed birthday | Manav turns 6!

Hello dear all. The blog’s been still and inactive for a while now. I humbly apologize for the lack of activity here. Getting back to work plus, getting used to school routines and having a baby at home could be some valid reasons, but if I remember correctly I started this blog back in Oct 2011 when my firstborn was just 3 months old, mainly take some time out for myself, make new friends, express my feelings and views on the things happening around me and ofcourse to ramble on about the dishes that I tried and I wasn't very free to start with even then, but I still did blog a lot. 
I’ve had plenty of help from my in-laws and parents for over the past year after Mihi baby was born and yet I’ve just not been able to spare some time to this space, which is my virtual diary. I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep, but still I will try to atleast share 1-2 posts per month going forward and slowly get back into the rhythm of sharing my world with you all. Thank you for being so patient.

I wanted to share a fun and simple birthday party we had for my handsome first born, Manav...commonly referred to as Appu (at home) or lil’Appu (here on the blog). Not so little now I would say as he celebrated his 6th birthday on July 11th.  Am I a bit too late to even share this? :-D

He's been watching and playing a lot of Pokémon cartoons and games all summer long and so obviously wanted a Pokémon themed birthday. Although we had made separate plans to keep a bigger combined birthday party for Mihi and Appu a few weeks later, we decided to keep a small party in our backyard with just his friends from our community.

I decided to make the easiest Pokémon themed cake, which ofcourse was this Pikachu cake. It was a 5” tall delicious rich Chocolate Cake with Chocolate buttercream for my all-time chocolate loving boy. The outside was frosted with yellow colored vanilla buttercream. Pikachu’s facial features and ears were done with fondant.

To add to the theme we got some standing Pikachu and Charmander cutouts, Pokémon themed plates and blowouts from party city and some balloons in colors of red, yellow and black.
My lovely friend Swati, sent us some decorations, all the way from Minnesota which she made herself for her own son’s Pokemon themed birthday party…friends should be like her…Muah! We couldn’t use everything she sent, but I used the Pokeball shaped paper fans. There were also pokeball name tags and other decorations, which we couldn’t put up as it was too windy in the backyard.

Food was kept very simple and as per the birthday boys request of items, there were Chips, Lemonade, Fruits and Cake of course. I managed to arrange the fruits to look like a pokeball using strawberries, bananas and grapes (idea from Pinterest).

We had invited most of Appu's friends from our community to stop by for cake and snacks. The birthday boy was very happy and behaved like a good little 6 year old.  Mihi baby, just a week short of being a 1 year old was in good spirit too. Ofcourse she made good use of the opportunity to pull my hair...Lol!

Though it was a small and quick party everyone had fun. Kids enjoyed being goofy with the blowouts and smaller kids played with the balloons. Our basement is like a toy store, having a big collection of toys from all of Appu's previous birthdays..... so the kids had fun with those. Some of his friends stayed over longer and they played to their hearts content. So in all both Appu and his friends had a great time.

Mihi baby's favorite part was pulling her Appu chetta’s hair while we posed for some family pics and having grandparents here made the birthday even more special. My sister Maya sent him the Pokemon Tshirt and he was so happy to wear it.

And that, my dear all was our birthday boy's fun little Pokemon birthday. It was put together without much planning but Appu still remembers the details and that's what counts.

Our baby girl's birthday was next and it was the big 1 year old party....that's what is coming up next on the blog and I can't wait to share the details with you all.

Have a god day you all!


Apr 24, 2017

Vishu themed Cake | Baby's naming ceremony | Traditional Kerala style design

The last themed cake I make was back in August 2015. Yes! It's true...I don't think I have shared that cake here yet either...meh! The whole time I excused myself from any fancy cake stuff in the excuse of being pregnant, then due to our move to Charlotte,  all of my 'cake stuff' were packed away into dozens of boxes and then our newborn came along etc etc

Anyways not going to dwell in the past, so here I'm sharing my latest cake , thanks to some awesome friends who trusted me to the core on everything from flavor to design. Our friends S and S had had their third baby boy in March and they planned to have a fun get-together with close friends and family on April 14th to celebrate the baby's naming ceremony which happens when the baby is 28 days old. April 14th also happened to be the day of Vishu festival, which is a popular harvest festival for folks from the state of God's Own Country, Kerala .

As it was Vishu festival and also the naming ceremony (aka, Iruvathiettukettu in malayalam) I decided to go for a traditional look which will depict both the festival as well as signify the baby's special occasion.

One of the most popular arrangements done for Vishu, other than a scrumptious vegetarian feast (sadhya), is the VishuKani. The Malayalam word kani means 'that which is seen first', so Vishukkani means 'that which is seen first on Vishu'. The Vishu kani arrangements usually consists of a tray or golden bowl, Uruli filled with various vegetables and fruits, a mirror, ornaments, new dress and most popularly, yellow Konna flowers along with a Lamp and the photo of a Hindu god.
I used a random image of a Vishukani from google  and re-created the look using gumpaste and this is what it looked like. I was lucky enough to find the yellow flowers at a local art&craft store that perfectly resembled the yellow Konna flowers. Except for the flowers all other VishuKani items are made from gumpaste and edible.

To signify the baby's naming ceremony function, I decided to make a cute little sleeping baby figurine and a tray filled with the various ornaments that we would adorn the baby for the first time after he/she is born which generally includes a Gold waist chain, Gold baby bangles and anklets, Black thread worn around the waist and black bangles (karivala).  Again all items are made from gumpaste and edible.

Here's another look at the Tray of ornaments and Vishu kani arrangement.

For the overall deisgn on the cake I went for the Kerala Set Sari/Mundu design which is ideally a cream/ivory colored cloth with gold border.

When I took it my friend's home, they wanted to display it along with some traditional Lamps, statue of baby Krishna and also their Vishu kani tray. Here are some pics taken by my friend himself. 

That's me with my little Mihika baby. It was her very first Vishu and we are wearing traditional Kerala style Set sari and pattupavada respectively and coincidentally our colors matched - Orange. Anyways, I'm digressing from the actual topic... the Cake ;-)

The cake flavor was White Cake with a filling of Mango mousse, pieces of mango and peach with vanilla Buttercream frosting on the outside.  I didn't get a picture of the sliced cake but it'll look exactly like the cake slice from this cake.

Everyone was thrilled to see the cake and had never seen a traditional Kerala theme depicted on a cake. I was thrilled to be able to successfully deliver the design I had in mind and anyone from Kerala could relate to it without even explaining the theme.

Although not entirely perfect I was very happy with how the cake came out. Buttercream frosting is not my favorite when trying to get smooth and clean sides but I did not have the time to do a fondant cake. Maybe next time... ;-)
Hope you enjoyed this cake as much as I did from making to blogging about it. So until next time all I have to say is do what you love doing and see you all soon!